Tegan Smith, who took a break from education to raise her daughter, graduates from forensic psychology degree
Young mum Tegan Smith firmly believes that everyone deserves a second chance – and says she got hers at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
The 24-year-old, from Burnley, had to take a break from education when she became a mum to daughter, Avie, aged just 16, putting her dreams of pursuing a career in psychology on hold.
But three years later she made the decision to study for a Foundation Degree at UCLan, followed by a BSc (Hons) in Forensic Psychology.
She is graduating with a 2:1 classification having juggled her studies with both motherhood and a second pregnancy – Tegan is due to give birth to her second child in a matter of weeks.
The former Shuttleworth College pupil says her own journey was her motivation to study for a degree which would allow her to “help others to help themselves”, with a view to securing a role in youth offender rehabilitation.
She explains: “My previous life experiences have shown me that sometimes some people just need a helping hand to get back on the right track, especially vulnerable young adults.
“I want to help people who others might give up on, because I believe everyone deserves a second chance.”
Tegan says her second chance to achieve her goals came at the age of 19, when she was referred by a friend to Lesley Martin, Foundation Course Leader at UCLan’s Burnley Campus.
Life isn’t always easy but with fantastic support from my University lecturers I have built up my confidence and achieved my goals. It’s made me realise that nothing is impossible if you work hard enough.
Having left school without completing her A-Levels, Tegan had always felt she didn’t have the necessary skills and qualification to follow her dream of going to University.
But Lesley introduced her to UCLan’s Foundation Degree in Social Sciences and helped to re-build Tegan’s confidence until she felt able to return to education.
Tegan says: “When Lesley explained that the foundation course could eventually result in me completing a psychology degree there was no question that it was perfect for me.
“The support I received during that first year was fantastic. It gave me opportunity to excel in my learning and taught me all the skills I needed to be University-ready. The smallest things from how to reference and the proper use of grammar are all very important in your final year and without the foundation course, I think I may have struggled.
“I’m the first person in my family to go to University and I’ve loved everything about it, from the friends I’ve made here to all the things I’ve learnt. Sometimes I’ll read back my essays and think ‘I can’t believe I actually wrote this’. Graduating feels both happy and sad because it’s the end of an era but I’m excited about the next chapter.”
While Tegan says she is proud of her degree success, she is modest about the barriers she had to overcome.
“Being a mother of one with another baby on the way has been a learning curve but everyone faces life challenges,” she says. “The early months of this pregnancy were difficult as I suffered badly with sickness and I still had to come to University, but it’s all been worth it. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that I don’t give birth during the graduation ceremony!
“Life isn’t always easy but with fantastic support from my University lecturers I have built up my confidence and achieved my goals. It’s made me realise that nothing is impossible if you work hard enough.”
Tegan is one of more than 4,000 students who graduated in front of family and friends at Preston’s Guild Hall.